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When Friends Hurt

January 22nd, 2011 in Friends, Relationships

What happens when a good friend hurts you?   How do you feel?  I had to deal with a situation recently where a friend was harsh (from my perspective) and frustrated with me while we worked on a project together.   I was so taken back and hurt by her comments.   This is a dear friend and yet I wanted to walk away because I didn’t know what to do with my reactions.

I felt betrayed, unloved and alone.  I didn’t want to go to other friends to discuss the issue because we share mutual friends.   Instead I made a decision to distance myself from the project with her.   I was there but didn’t participate with my heart and creativity and instead outsourced my part of the project.  I was looking to create safety for myself and bypass this inner conflict.

Since I didn’t know where to go with my feelings, I did what I’m good out…put them aside and tried not to deal with them.  Though untouched feelings always surface back up and come out like a roaring lion in the form of anger.  I eventually lashed out with my hurt feelings at a time when it wasn’t appropriate for me or her.  

The situation with my friend had me questioning my belief around friendships and the role I expect them to play in my life.   Do I see the beauty as well as the humanness of this special relationship? 

I believed that friends create safe harbors and a place to go when I’m facing the issues that surface in my life.   They help make my life sweet, funny and most important provide nurturing love.  Within the friendship, I can express my own loving feelings toward them.  To me my friends are all-loving and unconditional in a world that sets so many standards and conditions to acceptance. 

I’m not naïve to think they love everything I do, yet I expect a good friend to somehow step over my imperfections and mirror back to me love and acceptance.  So when they don’t step over and instead mirror back non-acceptance, it hurts.  

The adult in me thinks that it’s no big deal and friends are human like me.  Yet the little girl in me wants the total acceptance and is outraged a friend would be so insensitive.  I smile because I believe this is the same inner battle all of us go through when dealing with love ones.  

We expect love ones to be perfect in their love for us and perfection is defined by us.

What did I ultimately do in this situation?  I distanced myself from the project, played out the many running thoughts I had around my hurt feelings, and of course, pretended I was dealing with the situation as an adult.  Ha!  That entire pretense ultimately set the tone for an angry outburst towards my friend.   Unresolved feelings of betrayal and abandonment were lurking ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.  Anger can spur a conversation, which is what I needed to do.  Yet, it doesn’t help me feel good about myself. 

After we discussed my feelings, she felt bad and I still felt unloved and justified for my anger.  During the night I processed the situation and realized that I needed to apologize for the way I handled it.    Why the apology if I was hurt by a friend?

The lesson is that we are all responsible for our reactions to any situation in life.   I chose to be hurt by her actions and because of my reactions made other choices which were not her responsibility.  

There is no one way to act in life as we have an abundance of choices. We can decide to step back and look at our reactions and see if they serve us.  We can take care of ourselves and set boundaries around how others are allowed to treat us, but a dear friend is just that…a dear friend.    I can say my peace, ask for what I need and then get on with the business of enjoying our friendship.

My friend is too important to me to allow hurt feelings to create a division between us.  I somehow survived the fallout of disappointment of a less than perfect interaction with a friend.   The richness of the situation is that I learned more about my vulnerabilities and in spite of them; I am still safe, warm and loved by my friend.

Pat

“To fully enjoy the ‘richness’ of our lives, we need to stop long enough to visit with ourselves.”
(Pat Brill)

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7 Responses to “When Friends Hurt”

  1. Helen Cohen Says:

    I liked this article about friendship and pain it causes and resolution if any possible. What would also help me in hurt that I experience in my friendship is to know what exactly friend said that hurt another friend.

    Yes I also felt hurt by rudeness and disregard of friends by if ventured into discussion why I am hurt without any anger only received a defensive answers. Most of times I keep hurt to myself certainly never go angry.but become resentful at times. How to deal with these issues especially when one is of age.
    Can you help?

  2. Lisa Says:

    I am in the middle of a similar situation where a very close friend just stopped communicating with me. She cut off all forms with no explanation. She is also my neighbor, and I used to spend a lot of time at her home; and soon I began to notice gatherings with other friends which excluded me. After about a month I went to her and told her how hurt I was and that it wasn’t how I wanted our friendship to move forward. She told me she didn’t either, and told me that the distance was because our daughters weren’t getting along. A few days later she told me that she wished she had never mentioned the reason because her daughter never really saw it as big of a deal as she thought. She said that things were okay, but subsequent days, weeks and months saw more exclusion and little communication. Off and on I would ask her if things were okay, and she would say yes, but her actions didn’t mirror that. Periodically, she would put up an olive branch by offering an invitation, gift or other but then ignore me the very next time I saw her. After 14 months of this behavior, I sent her an email asking if we could just be cordial neighbors. I chose this form of communication, because our face to face were hurtful and I really needed to avoid more pain. I was careful not to place blame in the email but to explain that the lack of communication hurt and I needed to move on. This led to an exchange of emails, in which she never acknowledged my pain or apologized for any part of it. She did, in her last tell me to quit being a victim and that it hurts her when I have other people to my home and she isn’t invited. What do I do with this? I feel sad that my actions hurt her and know I need to acknowledge that pain and apologize for anything I did to contribute. I also know I was left alone to interpret her actions in absence of communication, and my interpretation was not perfect and made to protect myself from hurt. I know I am responsible for that. To serve myself, I know I need to communicate that to her, but no longer feel our friendship is or ever was a safe haven. I need to move on, still care about her and want good things for her and would love to be able to feel peace when I see her move forward in her life without me.

  3. Angela Says:

    I feel the same way about my friend too sometimes. My friend gets mad at me and goes off like a rocket ready to explode. I don’t even know why and so to defend myself I go off to. But I try to have patience and ask nicely “What’s wrong”? Last time she gave me an explanation but to me wasn’t a good enough explanation. It just seems like you should be friends and both make up and say sorry and move forward. With my friend I said I was sorry if I have offended you in some way. She never says sorry and doesn’t show much emotion. I like talking to her and sometimes we hang out just not often as I would like. She holds back our friendship from becoming a better one. There are things I like about her personality though. She told me one time “do not change the way you are”. However, when I get angry it makes me wonder why I am even friends with her. I don’t understand. After about 4 months of not talking much she is finally talking again. But anything to do with feelings she doesn’t want to talk about. Isn’t that crazy? I mean I could say, How are you feeling? or How have you been? She says fine. She doesn’t criticize me she gives me compliments. She is not hurtful in that way. She is hurtful saying I always talk about me. But if I try to discuss her she changes the subject by saying I don’t want to talk about me. So I’m thinking then what do we talk about? The weather, politics, the news….get my drift…very frustrating. I know I have learned to back off and haven’t tried to go out of my way. It does help some but I still find myself wanting to call or just talk to her. I can talk to her but she is blunt about answers. I like to here her opinion cause some of her answers make sense but then sometimes I disagree with her. That’s the part I like is she actually listens to me.

  4. Sunny Says:

    I always did and do my best for my best friend, my colleague. She has two divorces and now wants the third one. She has 3 children, one from each of her marriage.
    She teaches English. She is always late or lazy to help me, even she always likes to accuse me in not respecting her.
    Last year I took her with me to an International conference in Beijing for a week. We stayed in my cousin’s apartment, who fed us, so we did not pay any money for accommodation and food. But my friend accused my cousin in stealing of her mobile phone charger. It was too hurtful for me. But I stuck my lips and did not say any complains.
    Now we are in Australia because I have included her in a group of fellowships.
    But here she hurts me again. Even she knows that I cannot sleep well with TV noise, its splashing lights and cigar smoke, she watches TV almost all night long, and smokes just in front of my opened balcony at 5 and 7 o’clock in the morning. Because of these reasons, which did not allow me to get good sleep after my busy summer days at home, just after my long travel to Aussie world I felt myself very sick, and had to see doctor. Unfortunately, she still does not stop her shows.
    Three weeks ago she demanded me to give her the room with view to the Pacific, where I just for a while was staying. Some of the people who are with us here were amazed of her character, and said me how I could stand such a undisciplined person as my friend. I said them that I know that she is unbearable, but she is my friend.
    Now she accuses me again that I do not respect her. Really, it is too undisciplined person, is not it? At the moment I have stopped to talk with her for already 3 days. What should I do with my friend? Finally, I am a woman, not a prince mounted on his battle horse. Please give me some advise.

  5. Pat Says:

    There is no one way to deal with one’s hurt feelings. I spoke to my friend, first with anger, and then will friendship in mind.

    I’ve read many years ago where it’s good to come from “I feel, I think” place and not “You did.” Why the difference? Coming from “I” place allows the other person to listen. Coming from a “You” place puts the other person on the defensive.

    So share your feelings because stuffing it down and feeling anger is just not a healthy solution.

    If you have a friend who abuses you with his/her tantrums, demands will little in return, this is not a friend. Friends we work with to make it better. Takers we give away.

    I don’t have the only answers. It’s important in all of our interactions that we find a place where respect for each other resides. If you feel you are not being respected, then find a way to let the person know. Listen to yourself and don’t second guess your reactions.

    Sometimes we open up and find the other person didn’t mean to do what they did…they care for you and will change to make sure you are ok.

    We are not taught how to deal with conflict so many of us hide from it and just sit with our hurts or anger. It doesn’t go away, so be brave and come from “I feel” place.

    Thanks for sharing. All of your comments indicate that we need to support each other through the minor and major challenges in our lives.

    Be well,
    Pat

  6. Paige Says:

    I have been living in hurt for a long while now. Only recently, have I begun to look it up online to see if others have had this experience and how they deal with it. I came across Angela’s posting further up and it was rather spooky. The friend she described is almost a mirror image of me. So this posting is really in response to Angela. I tried your link Angela but its broken so Pat suggested I write here. I hope this will shed light.

    I think hurt runs both ways. You are hurt and she is hurt. It sounds like she doesn’t know how to open up or it might be that she hasn’t worked out why she is so upset with you. But its obvious that your friendship is somewhat important for her to react dramatically.

    If she is not letting you in on why she is upset when you asked, it might be that she is by nature quite strong minded? And admitting that she is hurt is contrary to her persona? Give her time, but during this period please do not distant your friendship. Though your friend may appear difficult, cold and unapproachable, it could be that she is hoping that you will be proactive to demonstrate that this friendship means as much to you as to her.

    I agree that friends should say sorry and then move on. But is she expecting sorry to be demonstrated? Sometimes sorry can become a cliché. Or she might be wondering why is it that she is still hurting when you can so easily let it pass.

    I also said to my friend who hurt me to never change. Don’t overlook these words lightly. It’s a plea and it shows your friend’s feelings are delicate. I really think she values your friendship deeply.

    During your dry period, she was probably trying to shake off the hurt but I can tell you this is not easy. Sometimes in isolation we can go into depression. The withdrawal can haunt for weeks and months. She was probably seeking strength during this time to come out a better person and to face you. Avoiding to discuss her feelings clearly says that she is still tender inside. But you can help her, by being near. Drop her an email from time to time, call her, get some face time. Try to show that you care, get connected one way or another.

    At the end of the day, it’s very much an insecurity issue. She might be afraid of losing a friendship that means so much. Yet, it’s hard for her to demand that you give more, to go out of your way for her.

    When you say you have learnt to back off, this is the worst thing that can happen. It leaves your friend in speculation allowing the hurt to run wild in her head. I think reassurance from time to time can alleviate the pain.

  7. Pat Says:

    Paige

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts because your points are important. Each of us have different ways of expressing ourselves. Some people are private or scared of their feelings and expressing them is difficult. So their behaviors block interaction and distance the other person. Others express feelings/emotions freely and don’t understand the non expressive people. We just have different styles in life.

    For me it was important to realize people do what they do…not because of me…rather because of them. I stopped taking everything personal and just listened to the other person. I actually did that this morning with another friend…realizing she was uncomfortable in groups which is why she talks too much. 1:1 she is much better.

    Let’s be gentle with our friends and be respectful of ourselves.

    Thanks for sharing

    Be well,
    Pat


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